Senate Passes Workers Compensation Reforms
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate passed legislation Wednesday to turn back court rulings impacting the state's workers' compensation system. Senate Bill 572, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey, was passed by voice vote.
"Our goal is to create strong law that the courts can look to for resolution in workers' compensation cases," said Daniel P. Mehan, president/CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "These changes provide clarity of the law and certainty for employers, and most important, protects employees as the system was intended."
Addressed in the legislation are court cases that moved co-employee liability and occupational disease coverage outside of the workers' compensation system. Both provisions are a result of recent court interpretations of statutes that followed changes to the law under the workers' compensation reforms passed in 2005.
In the case Robinson v. Hooker, the court ruled that prior law limiting civil actions against employees no longer applied as a result of amendments made to the workers' compensation statutes in 2005, which changed the law to require a "strict" reading of the workers' compensation statutes. The court ruled in this case that a strict reading of statute does not indicate that co-employees are exempt from liability along with the employer. Following receiving workers' compensation benefits from the employer, the employee sued the co-employee for additional damages.
During floor debate, provisions to address Missouri's Second Injury Fund were removed from the legislation.
"Before 2005, Missouri's workers' compensation system, paid for entirely by employers, was plagued by fraudulent claims," Mehan said. "The 2005 reforms dramatically improved the system, and this year's legislation makes sure that the reforms continue to work as lawmakers had intended."
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.